Japanese Aralia – Fatsia japonica

This plant is an evergreen shrub from Japan and Korea that has been grown as a house plant for over 100 years. So glossy and attractive are its dark green, shiny leaves that they are lovely to look at from any angle. The leaves range from 20– 40cm (8-16in) in width, and have 5-7 lobes; they resemble a widespread hand. They are carried on stalks that are 25-30cm (10-12in) long. Because of its shape and texture, this lush plant makes a good foil for groupings of flowering plants.

There is only one species, Fatsia japonica, an evergreen 6 to 8 ft. high, with large, deeply lobed, rather thick-textured leaves which have a fine architectural look enhanced by the cream-coloured flowers produced in globular heads on stiffly branched sprays in autumn. It grows in most soils, in sun or shade, and is first rate both in city gardens and near the sea. It is related to ivy, though it does not climb, and there is an interesting hybrid between it and ivy named Fatshedera lizei, which has long lax (not climbing) stems and leaves intermediate in size and shape.

A Japanese Aralia grown outdoors in a large tub may flower but one grown in the home rarely does. The flowers are small and white and are followed by black fruits.

This plant can become quite sizeable— up to 2m (7ft) —when grown in a container. It rarely branches out so that even large plants retain a slender appearance.

The growth tends to occur in spurts, with 4-6 leaves being added at one time. Then there is a gap before another batch of leaves are produced.

VarietiesJapanese Aralia - Fatsia japonica

Fatsia japonica ‘Moseri’ is an Aralia with more compact growth. Its leaves are larger and have yellowish veins. F.j. ‘Variegata’ has striking leaves which are edged with a creamy white band.

Propagation

From cuttings

When you prune your plant use the tips of the shoots as cuttings. They should be 15-20cm (6– 8in) long with 2 healthy leaves.

1. Dip the cut end into hormone rooting powder, then plant the cuttings in small pots using an equal-parts mixture of peat and sand.

2. Cover the cuttings with a polythene bag with airholes or place them in a propagator. Water them well and keep them warm. After 3-4 weeks roots will be established.

3. Move the young plants to a cooler position and transfer them into individual pots.

Water sparingly and keep out of direct sun.

Sowing seeds

1. Sow seeds in a tray and cover with a thin layer of compost.

Water and place in a propagator.

2. Keep the seeds in the dark until they germinate. Then uncover and bring into the light.

3. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out. When they are 13– 15cm (5-6in) tall, pot on into individual pots.

Looking after your plant

In time Japanese Aralia can get leggy or lose leaves at the base of the stem. Repot the plant and let it rest for a few weeks, then cut the stems just above a bud or leaf. Dust with sulphur powder to prevent infection in the wound. Move the plant to a bright position out of direct sunlight. Water so that the potting mixture is kept moist.

Pests And Diseases

Leaves turn yellow and drop off. This indicates that the plant is over-watered.

Prevention: Let the plant dry out more in between waterings. Never let it sit in a saucer of water.

The plant becomes tall and leggy. This is because it is in a position where it is too warm and dark.

Prevention: Move it to a cooler and better lit spot. Avoid direct sun as this will scorch the leaves.

Pale spots on leaves or leaves turn yellow. This indicates red spider mites. Prevention: Mist frequently to discourage mites. If severe, spray plant with a recommended insecticide.

Grey mould may infect the plant if it is kept in a position that is too cool, damp and dark.

Treatment: Remove affected leaves and move the plant to a warmer and lighter position.

Yellow leaves

Sticky, malformed leaves are a sign of aphids. Treatment: If the infestation is noticed early, spray with soapy water. If severe, use a suitable insecticide following the instructions on the pack.

PLANT CARE

This is an easy plant to care for and in general will look after itself. It will benefit from cooler rather than warmer positions. Cut back any plants that get too leggy.

  • Potting: Provide a rich, well-drained peat-based potting mixture when you repot in spring. Younger plants need repotting every year, older plants every 2-3 years.
  • During the growing season this plant needs generous amounts of water. Keep the compost moist at all times but never allow excess water to remain in the saucer. In winter, water moderately allowing the potting mixture to dry out between waterings.
  • Feeding: Apply a diluted liquid house plant fertilizer every second or third time you water during the summer. Stop feeding the plant in winter.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: This plant grows best in plenty of light but should be kept out of direct sun. It can grow well in less well-lit positions. It will thrive on the sill of an east- or north-facing window.
  • Temperature: In summer the ideal temperature is 15°C (60°F). Although the plant is frost-hardy, the best winter temperature is around 13°C (55°F).

Buying Tips

  • This plant, which comes in many sizes, is available at garden centres and nurseries throughout the year.
  • Avoid a plant with leggy growth and damaged or unhealthy leaves. Check for insect damage and that the plants are not pot-bound.
  • This plant will live for many years.

The Japanese Aralia is an attractive and stately house plant. Its glossy and luxuriant leaves make it a popular choice for all-year-round greenery in the home.

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